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13 June 2012, 11:40

Google's Blockly puts visual programming in the browser

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Blockly code sample
Zoom A sample of Blockly code
Source: Blockly project
Google's Blockly is a new project, just released as an open source technology preview, which gives developers the ability to offer visual programming within their own web applications. The project, which was inspired by the App Inventor for Android project, allows a novice user to clip together the elements of a programming language to create a runnable program.

Designed to run in a web browser with no plugins and explicitly written as open source, Blockly does provide a visual code editor for the Blockly language. The code can currently be exported as JavaScript, Dart and Python, allowing users who outgrow the system to make a smoother transition to another language. It can also export an XML representation of the code.

Among the examples, one Blockly demo allows a user to program how to navigate a maze. Although applicable to educational scenarios, Blockly is not an educational platform according to the developers, but rather a component that could be used in an educational platform; it could equally be used in a business system or a game.

The developers aim, in the short term, to improve the documentation, add more blocks and support for parameters in functions, and add cut, copy and paste into the editor. In the mid term, they hope to support better variable renaming, events on changes, Arduino code generation and Internet Explorer support, and in the long term, multiple workspaces, zooming and making Blockly usable on a tablet among other goals.

Blockly is currently only available as Apache Licence 2.0 code from the project's subversion repository; more information is available in the wiki.


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